Though there are plenty of ways that Google has established itself as a necessary tool for many small businesses, there’s one lesser-known offering that can make a huge impact on your web presence: your Google listing.
Even if you’re using Gsuite in your everyday administrative work, you may not have realized that you have control over what information appears about your business when people do a Google search for you! Enter Google My Business, a tool that allows you to “own” your listing on the popular search engine and make sure your information is correct when people find you.
Learning how to optimize your listing starts with understanding why it’s important. Here are some reasons why you should have a Google My Business account:
Why Google My Business Matters
Having a strong online presence has become increasingly important whether you’re already doing business virtually or in a brick and mortar location. In fact, the use of the phrase “near me” in Google searches has significantly increased in recent years and, according to Google, most searchers are focused on finding relevant results over big-name brands.
What does that mean for you as a small business owner? It means that making sure potential clients have an accessible and clear understanding of what your offerings are (and what your hours are, as well as where you’re located, if you’re a physical business), is the most important step in convincing them to work with you.
Google My Business accounts not only let you update your search engine listing, but also improve the SEO ranking for your website, so people won’t have to dig through pages of search results when they’re looking for you. You can also take advantage of the analytics on Google My Business if you’re looking to fine-tune your online advertising strategies.
According to Google, customers are 70% more likely to visit a business that has a complete Google My Business account. With how simple it is to set one up, that should really be reason enough to do so.
How to Set Up a Google My Business Account
You can set up your account by first visiting https://www.google.com/business/. Once there, follow the instructions to:
- Sign up with your domain’s email address if you have one (ie. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Enter your business name
- Choose the category that most closely describes your offerings
- Enter a physical location if you have one (you can enter a service area if you don’t have a brick and mortar location)
- Fill in your contact information
You’ll also need to verify your account, which can be done by postcard (this is the default option), by phone or by email. Note it can take between a few days to a few weeks to receive the postcard with your verification code if you choose snail mail.
If your listing already exists on Google, you can follow the steps to sign up for an account, then find your business listing and follow the instructions for managing it. Don’t worry if the information that appears is incorrect! You can fix this once your ownership has been verified.
Optimizing Your Google Listing
Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your Google My Business account:
- Fill out your entire profile. Yep, the whole thing. It might seem tedious in the moment, but 10-20 minutes now will be rewarded by Google in the long run: they give a higher ranking to businesses that have all of their information filled out in relevant searches.
- Show, don’t tell. In the online world, visuals are king. Don’t stop at adding your logo and cover photo — Let people get excited about working with you by showing them what your business looks like, photos of your happy clients (with their permission!), what your products look like (if you sell any), or anything else that’s relevant!
- Post your updates. Google My Business has an option to create posts just like Facebook does; use this feature to share information about upcoming events, special features, or any important news about your business. Remember to keep it concise while still sharing all relevant information.
- Share your menu. If you share your pricing online, you can use Google My Business to create a menu and include a booking button, which is a handy shortcut to get people invested before they’ve even visited your website.
Take Advantage of Reviews
It’s important to note that you can’t turn off reviews for your business on Google, but since people can leave reviews on your listing regardless of whether you own it or not, it’s highly recommended that you claim ownership! That way, you have control over reporting inappropriate reviews when applicable, as well as replying to reviews, which is helpful for answering questions, offering a thoughtful response to any negative feedback, and thanking all who take the time to post.
If a customer reaches out with praise, encourage them to leave a Google review! While it’s nice to get a good review on any platform, reviews on Google can boost your SEO ranking, making it easier for other people to find you.
Reviews are also a great way to establish trust with current and potential clients by allowing you another means to connect with them. Though it might seem like just one more thing to add to your busy schedule, it’s worth taking the time to reply to anyone who leaves a review, whether positive or negative. This gives people the chance to get to know you, understand the reasons behind what you’re doing, and gives them incentive to work with you (or work with you again!).
The biggest takeaway here is that, while Google has taken over how people find things online, they’re also providing plenty of free tools you can use to turn this to your advantage. From Gmail to Analytics, you’ve got everything you need to establish a robust online presence readily available.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to use the entire suite of Google offerings to boost your business!